KENNEBUNK, Maine — If you were to check back through the last few months of ramblings in the space, thereâ€™s one word in particular that is used very sparingly.
It is not the most desirable of words, and although it does have its place in such a setting as this, itâ€™s best doled out as though forced through an eye-dropper (get itâ€¦.).
Still, the rules can be bent a little, or so Iâ€™m thinking now as I gaze day-dreamily through my picture window at the eight inches of fresh snow that arrived here overnight.
But there is not just snow on my mind. Thereâ€™s ice, too, and the many places Iâ€™ve been privileged to watch hockey players work their wonders on top of it. (Okay, it hasnâ€™t all been wonderful. But itâ€™s my contention that the worst hockey game is far better than the best basketball game. And itâ€™s my column, so deal with it!)
Iâ€™m an arena freak. I enjoy visiting rinks for the first time, and I love going back to others for the 100th.
Each one is different, some homely, some stunning. But I love them all. And by my count, Iâ€™ve entered and departed some 42 different venues to watch college hockey. Thatâ€™s a lot by some standards, not so many by others.
And also by my count, Iâ€™ve witnessed womensâ€™ college hockey in 13 different chillboxes.
Hereâ€™s the list (not in any particular order): Bright Center, Matthews Arena, Conte Forum, Walter Brown Arena, Freitas Ice Forum, Schneider Arena, Thompson Arena, Meehan Auditorium, Alfond Arena (UMaine), Alfond Arena (Bowdoin), Whittemore Center, Rochester (N.H.) Arena, and the University of Southern Maine Ice Arena.
Oh, and Concordia College in Montreal, where I once did a â€œcatching up with Cammiâ€ piece for the Providence Journal. So that makes 14.
Thatâ€™s the rundown. Notice a geographic trend? Notice that all (but one of ) those rinks are (like I am) planted in New England?
What that means to me is that there are plenty of new blessings to seek out, plenty even if confined to womensâ€™ hockey.
There are so many places yet to see.
Here are a few Iâ€™ve written on my â€œpuck bucketâ€ list.
â€œThe Ralphâ€. Ralph Engelstad Arena – Grand Forks, N.D.
Some call this palatial puck palace opulent, some call it a monument to excess. A friend of mine whose been there, calls it â€œa really cool placeâ€ to watch hockey. I must get out there, someday.
â€œThe DECCâ€. Duluth Entertainment and Convention Center – Duluth, Minn.
When the history of womenâ€™s college hockey is written, this place, will go down as a cornerstone of the sportâ€™s Western expansion. That is of no small significance. The site of this yearâ€™s Frozen Four. Hmmmm. Maybe if I yell loud enough, theyâ€™ll hear me in USCHO World Headquarters.
â€œThe Firstâ€. Ridder Arena – Minneapolis, Minn.
The first of a kind. (Is it still the only?) Where else is there enough hockey passion to justify the construction of an arena devoted to womenâ€™s hockey?
(Notice another geographic trend?)
â€œThe Lastâ€. TDBanknorth Sports Center – Hamden, Conn.
Itâ€™s brand new, and itâ€™s the only current ECAC rink Iâ€™ve never visited. Leaving that item undone will drive me nuts, so Iâ€™d better get down there.
â€œThe Hopeâ€. Yost Ice Arena – Ann Arbor, Mich.
Okay, so Michigan doesnâ€™t have varsity womensâ€™ hockey. Thatâ€™s the point! Come on guys. And bring the Spartans of Michigan State in along with you. That way I can cross the Munn Ice Arena off my list, too.
Now for something a little more important.
Big kudos to the ECAC for their part in the upcoming â€œPink At the Rinkâ€ fundraising and awareness initiative.
The effort is being conducted in consort with the American Cancer Society and the Coaches vs. Cancer program, and the ongoing search for a breast cancer cure.
Over the next two weekends, each of the leagueâ€™s 12 teams will be donning specially designed pink jerseys. Those will then be available for auction on eBay, and itâ€™s fundraising arm, MissionFish.
The minimum bid is set at $150, but there will be the opportunity to â€œBuy It Nowâ€ for a flat $250 price.
Also to be auctioned will be game worn ties and scarves sported by the coaching staffs of ECAC mens and womens teams, along with a host of other items.
For more info, log on to www.ecachockeycoachesvscancer.com or www.ecachockey.